The sounds of bagpipes and a bass drum ushered Civil Affairs Advanced Individual Training Class 003-17 in to the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School’s Kennedy Hall Auditorium, June 29. Family and significant others waited excitedly for their Soldiers.
Pvt. Clayton Owens, the youngest graduate, was supported by his mother, Deborah Holbrode, and girlfriend, Shayla Hamlin. Holbrode explained that 19-year-old Owens would be celebrating his birthday the following day with red white and blue decorations.
The group of newest Civil Affairs Reserve Soldiers, had just completed a demanding 10-week course which culminated in a challenging field exercise.
Bernie Milano, father of graduate Spc. Adam Pierson Milano, explained that “(the graduates) were very impressed with the whole simulation, what was going to be required of them and how important that role is … to be that calming force with the locals and the local government.”
The students learned many skills, including the ability to map populations to help understand what makes them tick. Graduates were also trained to work in a think tank capacity in the field, working through problems with high-level thinking in field environments, explained Lt Col. John Wilcox.
During a speech a given to the graduates by Command Sgt. Maj. George Conklin, 360th Civil Affairs Brigade, Conklin described the graduates as young and hungry. He explained that they would be a force in dealing with disasters in times of conflict.
“I need you, the Army needs you … take pride in what you do … you are a relevant force on today’s battlefield,” Conklin said.
Although they came from different backgrounds, graduates expressed excitement in completion of the Civil Affairs AIT course.
“I really love the job. I am really glad I picked this, and I am really excited for the future. I can’t wait to get started,” said Pvt. Yanni Tsiranides.
“I feel part of a team now. Officially having accomplished all the goals that they (the Army) set forth, and specifically as Civil Affairs, I feel that I am ready to be a part of a civil component of the Army. To go anywhere in the world and help put forth U.S. interests and pursue our mission goals," explained honor graduate Spc. Nicholas Bernal.
“This has, by far, been one of the most challenging things I have ever done in my life … I am very happy to be part of this community to be able to serve,” said Spc. Curtis Stieffel.